Archive for Library

More Monographs

Posted in Folklore, History, Library with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2012 by manxwytch

Numbers Two and Three of the Three Hands Press Occult Monographs arrived some time ago and I read them as soon as they arrived, but have had little time lately for writing.

Number Two is, The Devil’s Raiments, by Martin Duffy. Duffy is someone I had never read before but upon reading this monograph, I will go out of my way to find more of his writing. The monograph is subtitled, Habiliments of the Witch’s Craft, and it involves the various and varied vestments which adorn and veil the magical practitioner. Duffy’s book is a delight; his words are intelligent and well crafted, his command of the material is broad, lucid and thorough. There is much that his thoughtful analysis and exhaustive research have been able to add to my own knowledge of this subject matter.

He begins with the practitioner’s skin itself, the flesh-cloak clothing the indwelling divine light. He explores garment as fetish – a collection of symbols/powers accumulated by the individual in order to facilitate and express her/his work. These symbols may be put directly onto or into the skin, or they may be draped about it. Throughout is the theme of concealment and revealment, alteration and alignment. Every conceivable article of clothing or adornment seems to have been considered somewhere in this small but mighty book.  From the making, to the wearing of the garments are discussed, with all of their symbolic, psychological and magical implications. The sources from which come the costume of the spirit, be they vegetable or animal, colour the powers derived from and approached by the wearer.

From swaddling to shroud we are clothed in life and in death, and it behooves the witch to do so purposefully and with awareness. Mr. Duffy’s contribution to this awareness, and to the Three Hands Press Monographs is an extremely valuable one, and is, thus far, my favourite of the series.

The Third Monograph is written by William Keisel, of Ouroboros Press fame, and is entitled, Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition. Keisel here provides an introduction to the uses, materials, orientations (both directional and cosmological) and constructions of the magic circle, as found in the major historical grimoires most widely referenced today. The Books of Occult Philosophy, the Keys of Solomon, the Heptameron, Transcendental Magic, Liber Juratus, are all represented, as well as a few more modern sources such as Book 4 and Azoetia. The monograph is thorough and methodical, as one would expect from this author, but for a practitioner already familiar with the Western Magical Tradition, it doesn’t offer much beyond a general introduction. It appears to be written for an academic audience who may not be familiar with the nuts and bolts of the working Magical tradition.

This monograph’s great worth is in presenting all of the major sources of the Western Tradition in a single place, with some tantalizing glimpses of a possible in-depth metaphysical comparative study. Certainly a fascinating and worthwhile project, and Mr. Keisel would be the man for the job.

I Like Big Books (and I cannot lie)

Posted in Library with tags , , on February 13, 2012 by manxwytch

A package arrived in the mail today.

A large package.

A heavy package.

In it was the third edition of Frazer’s The Golden Bough. All twelve volumes, published in 1920. Plus the supplement published in 1937.

The Golden Bough, Third Edition.

When I found it online, it was the second time in my life I had seen the third edition complete, and the first time I saw it, it wasn’t for sale.

I’m not a book snob, but I prefer old hardcover books to new mass market paperbacks, and I’m not a fan of ebooks. For something as influential and important as TGB, I want the most complete version I can get and this set dropped into my lap like a gift from the Gods.

It now takes pride of place in my Pagan Literary Orgasm section. I have a lot of reading to do. And more book reviews on the way.

Stay tuned.

Ex Libris: Viridarium Umbris

Posted in Library with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by manxwytch

Viridarium Umbris, The Pleasure Garden of Shadow, Which treats of the Secret Knowledge of Trees and Herbs. Deliver’d by the Fallen Angels unto Man.

Daniel A. Schulke, Xoanon Ltd., 2005.

The Verdelet and current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati has introduced a lifetime of work with plant lore and magic in this volume.

It is clear that Mr. Schulke is a master of his chosen field. The amount of research and practice that combine to make up VU is staggering. In addition to reliably drawing on folklore from a broad range of traditions, both of the New and of the Old World, the author also details valuable experiential exercises and practices to bring the reader and aspiring Green Witch in contact with the ultimate teachers, the plants themselves.

The book is organized into categories of herb lore, and each follows the same basic pattern. The section on the Wand for example, begins with a poem to engage the right side of the brain and to introduce the subject in broad and arcane terms.  Following this he reviews the folklore in general before describing a specific practice relating to the exploration of the qualities and powers of the tree branch. From here he supplies a charm or consecration script and a detailed description for the making of a wand by the practitioner. Next he describes the uses of particular species of tree from which one might fashion a wand, and to finish the section, Mr. Schulke describes several practices using wands and staves from his own tradition, along with a more detailed exploration of a particularly significant species used as a wand, namely the Hazel.

This pattern provides a thorough introduction to a host of aspects of Plant Magic ranging from one’s first approach to the Green World, it’s important inhabitants and the taboos associated with them, the values and qualities of various kinds of land ranging from Wild to Cultivated and that which lies In-Between. The Fertile and the Desolate, the Healing and the Harming are all dealt with. Invisibility, shapeshifting, necromancy, herbal medicine, the making of potions, incenses, dusts and other preparations are woven in with the worldview and approach of the Cultus Sabbati, of whom the author is the current Magister. The writing style of VU is typical of the publications of the Cultus, done in a quasi-archaic English with liberal use of Latin and Greek derivatives. I think it both admirable and appropriate to the subject matter as well as to the purpose of the book. Magic shouldn’t be written in language easily accessible to the uninitiated and the careful use of words reveals a careful consideration of the subject and requires a careful, conscious reading on the part of the audience.
The one thing that would make the book even more useful to me would have been the proper referencing of the author’s sources. I recognize many of the descriptions of constituents and correspondences, but it would have been invaluable for further study and research to know which sources Mr. Schulke drew from in those cases where the sources have been published. I have read other reviews which were critical of ambiguity or lack of detail regarding specific quantities in recipes or instructions but I do not share this criticism. I read VU as an herbal grimoire, not a cookbook. Further experience on the part of the reader and further publishing outside the scope of this very thorough introduction will see any gaps well-filled.

The Pleasure Garden of Shadow is tremendously valuable for anyone desiring to interact wisely and magically with the Realm of Plants, and is a broad and solid foundation on which to build one’s own knowledge and practice. It will be required reading for my students in the future, as will future Cultus publications from Mr. Schulke’s pen which will provide greater depth and detail in more specific areas of plant lore and practice – clearly his first love and area of greatest expertise.

What is Witchcraft?

Posted in Musings with tags , on August 31, 2011 by manxwytch

Well I’m so glad you asked.

I’m not telling you.


Yes you heard that right.

I’m not telling you.

This is not a blog about what Witchcraft is.  Really, pick up a book and do something wonderful with it.  Read it.  Smell it.  There’s nothing quite like the smell of an old worn book.  The textural feel of the paper.  The weight of it in your hands.  The quality of the cover and the bindings.   The way you shift in your chair and sometimes struggle to find the most comfortable position to cosy to the thoughts of another human being.  The insights that you muse upon later, once the book is put away.  I’ll help you out a little with providing a Library (in the Codex Magicae section) but that’s as far as it goes.

If you’re really that curious, I suggest you find a  witch and ask him/her about it.  Spend some time with a real person.

Besides, I expect that you who are reading this blog are already familiar with the topic.  (Caught you didn’t I?)

Let’s be honest with each other, there are more than enough books, web pages, blogs, articles, chatgroups, pricey magic workshops, pagan conferences, academic roundtables, “community building” initiatives, and information on Witchcraft out there to bloat a Behemoth.   So no, you won’t find me providing any historical, academic, definitions of Witchcraft for the newly seeking aspirant or something for ‘those in the know’ to criticize with their own opinions of what the Craft is.  We all have our own perspectives and as I’ve mentioned, there are plenty of fabulous books out there…  I also won’t be providing an on-line teaching course, passing on any ‘how to become a witch knowledge, spell casting or discussion of private coven lineages or methodology.  Besides, Witchcraft genuinely can’t be learned in that way.  It’s an experiential path that opens the door of gnosis to the Ancient Ones guiding light.  A mysterious, secretive path reserved for those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the wit to understand.  You just can’t get it off of Wikipedia or ‘public domain’ Books of Shadows.  You’re either called to it or you’re not.  If you’re natural to it, and you’ve got the spark within you, every witch worth their salt knows that they’ll find it.  With love and trust for the Ancient Ones all witches find their way home at some point… and we know that there’s no place like it.

So no, you won’t hear wordy definitions from me.

We have more entertaining things to write about.  Stories to tell to make you laugh or cry.   Maybe some thoughtful writing regarding ethics. philosophy, social growth and limitations, psychology, historical witchcraft research, book reviews… and who knows?  I’ll post some images that amuse me.  There are plenty out there and I love artwork.  I find it revealing.  I’ll post some of my favorite videos.   I’ll certainly share with you adventuresome stories of real experiences and people.  Some of their names will have been changed to protect the innocent and, well, not so innocent.  Best of all… I’ll share with you some of the Manx folk tales as they were told to me, and some of my own even, with all their witchey embellishments.

I promise to keep poetry down to a minimum.  Only old, good, (IMHO) published poetry and historical fragments will go here.  I’ll refrain from such things as:

“The dark night of Elfame’s enchantments, rang through the soul like a mighty bell…. calling…. calling… calling…

Ere the Novice enter the Crimson Threefold Gate of Her High Nocticular Mysteries.  Bla de bla de bla…”

Let’s leave that kind of poetry to the realm of personal use.  Besides, it’s usually a vanity copy of the Witch Master Andrew D. Chumbley, and very few have come close to his depth of understanding and eloquence, though many have made the attempt.  I’ve  read enough tries of it online and nearly wet my besom laughing far too many times.  Honestly, some witches take themselves too seriously and have no concept that some poetry should be kept to one’s self and only shared with a close friend and confident…. someone you won’t be offended by when they make fun of you.  🙂

From one witch to another…